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Southwest Florida’s first bishop to ordain women passes away

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 10:47am

[Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida] The Rt. Rev. Rogers Sanders Harris, whose call to Southwest Florida came at a critical time for the diocese, died Nov. 15, in South Carolina. His predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Emerson Paul Haynes, had served a 13-year episcopate and died while in office in 1988, which left the diocese without a bishop.

The Rt. Rev. Rogers Sanders Harris, 1930-2017

“He just came at a very difficult time,” said the Rt. Rev. Barry Howe, the current assisting bishop of the diocese and, during Harris’ time, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Peter. “He took a very difficult situation and made the best of it he could.”

Howe recalled that when Harris arrived, the issues of women’s ordination were left unresolved, and formal plans to elect a bishop coadjutor (a bishop with the right of succession) were never completed. The standing committee instead became the ecclesiastical authority and several retired bishops assisted during that period, but were never actual administrators. Important decisions were just deferred.

Harris was invested as diocesan Sept. 9, 1989, at the cathedral. Joan Kline served on the search committee for Harris and attended general conventions with him and his wife, Anne. She recalled having a good relationship with them. “I thought that he was the kind of bishop that went by the book,” reflected Kline, who said that the previous bishop, Emerson Paul Haynes, was in some ways more hands-off. “That didn’t always make him popular with the clergy,” Kline said.

It was during Harris’ tenure that the diocese first ordained female priests. When the diocese was in the selection period for bishop, Kline recalled that the issue of the ordination of women was central, as Southwest Florida was one of seven outlier dioceses in the Episcopal Church that were not ordaining women, and the previous bishop, Haynes, had not ordained women.

The decision to go forward with women’s ordination came fairly quickly, as it had been clear from the time of the election that Harris would be supportive of the idea. To resolve the issue and many other simmering problems, he arranged a meeting, recalled Howe. “He called together all the clergy who were not happy, and that was not hard.”

Harris ended up sending Sharon Lewis to seminary; other female priests in the diocese, such as the Rev. Tonya Vonnegut Beck, were licensed. The first woman he ordained was the Rev. Carol Schwenke, who was then a deacon at Holy Innocents in Valrico. Schwenke said she was at first a bit intimidated by him, thinking he was strict and standoffish, but that was just because she says she didn’t understand his personality. Later on, every time she saw the Harrises, she would get a hug from them both. “I remember that he went by the book,” said Schwenke, who said that she believed he thought of himself more an interim bishop, one who would “bring the diocese up with the rest of the church.”

“I always felt deeply encouraged by the friendship and understanding of the life of the Diocese of Southwest Florida and our relationship as colleagues in the House of Bishops,” said the current bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Florida, the Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith. “I was pleased for his relationship with the diocese, and pray for his grand entrance into heaven.”

In his first convention address to the diocese Oct. 13, 1989, Harris reminded the gathering that Jesus Christ was head of the church. “We are here to do his will, to serve his mission. So I come to be the leader of this diocese, not the head of it.”

South Carolina native

A native of South Carolina, Harris was born Feb. 22, 1930, in Anderson, the son of Wilmot Louis and Sarah Elizabeth (Sanders) Harris. After receiving his bachelor’s degree at the University of the South in 1952, he married Anne Stewart March 28, 1953. He served in the Korean War from 1952 to 1954 as 1st lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. “He came across as being no-nonsense,” said Howe. “He had been a marine in Korea.”

After his service, he received his Master of Divinity from the University of the South in 1957, was made deacon August 6, 1957 and priest April 5, 1958, under the Rt. Rev. Clarence Alfred Cole of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. In his parish work, he first served as vicar of both Grace Episcopal Church in Ridge Spring, South Carolina, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Batesburg. He served for 10 years as rector of the Church of Good Shepherd in Greer from 1959 to 1969 and was later rector of St. Christopher’s in Spartanburg from 1969 to 1985. He was consecrated bishop in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina March 9, 1985, by the Most Rev. John Maury Allin and the Rt. Revs. William Arthur Beckham and Alex Dockery Dickson. There, he served as suffragan bishop from 1985 to 1989.

“Rogers was loved for his deeply pastoral ministry and strong leadership,” said the Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, bishop of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. “We will all miss his faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ and his thoughtful presence.”

In the wider church, he served as vice president of Province IV of The Episcopal Church from 1991 to 1994 and president from 1994 to 97. He was a member of the presiding bishop’s Council of Advice from 1994 to 1997. He served as a trustee of the University of the South in Sewanee and president of the Bishop Gray Inn in Davenport, Florida, from 1989 to 1997. He received his Doctor of Ministry from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1977, as well as an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 1986. His thesis was The Commitment of Confirmation.

“He was just a wonderful soul,” said Karen Patterson, who served as secretary of the nominating committee before the election of Harris. “He was a wonderful person to work with.” Patterson appreciated that he served as personal chaplain to the Episcopal Church women, who then had a non-voting representative on diocesan council. She said that during the time after Haynes left the diocese, many issues had not been addressed, as there was no bishop. He had a bit of a formal, businesslike approach to his office, what Patterson assumed was a remnant of his time in the military.

“Our diocese needed that at the time,” said Patterson. They also served together in Province IV. Patterson said that outside of the diocese, people called him Rogers, which was unheard of within the diocese, even with clergy. “He was much more relaxed at synod.”

Smith also observed that relaxed nature. “Rogers, being the third bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Florida, he called me ‘five’ with a twinkle in his eyes,” said Smith.

“He played everything in the key of C major,” said the Rev. Canon Michael P. Durning, who first came to know Harris while he was curate at St. John’s in Naples, and served as chair of the finance committee. He recalled that Harris, who he described as “uncluttered and uncomplicated,” addressed the issue of diocesan apportionment. He came at the calculation from both a theological perspective, as well as his personal stories of his farming ancestors in rural South Carolina. “The larger congregations had a larger responsibility than the smaller congregations,” said Durning.

“I think of him often,” said Sandra Poling, assistant to Harris, who recalled his quiet nature and “innate honesty” in all he did. “He would give a job and expect it get done. He was not one to stand behind you and direct you.” She recalled him as a prayerful man, fully aware of everything going on around him. When problems came, he “dealt with it.”

“He provided a steady hand that was needed and appreciated,” said the Rev. Ed Henley, who believes that putting the diocese on a sound administrative footing was a critical accomplishment. “His personality was not such that you ended up with a lot of stories, but that was perfectly fine.”

The issues and discussions of worship styles were not of great importance in his role as bishop. “He didn’t make a whole lot of fuss about liturgy,” said Howe, who worked across the street from diocesan offices, which were then in St. Petersburg, across from the cathedral. “We just kind of became good friends.” He recalled that in his personal demeanor, he was reserved. “He was a very soft-spoken guy, and thought a lot before he spoke.”

His wife, Anne Harris, survives him. The family notified Smith by text that “Amazing Grace” was playing in the hospital room when he died.

Becas episcopales para la evangelización disponibles para esfuerzos locales y regionales

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 5:42am

El proceso de solicitud ya está abierto para el nuevo programa de Becas Episcopales para la Evangelización diseñado para financiar esfuerzos de evangelización local y regional en la Iglesia Episcopal.

“Este programa alentará a toda nuestra Iglesia a compartir recursos, catalizar la imaginación y, en última instancia, cultivar una red de evangelizadores que puedan aprender unos de otros y conectarse unos con otros”, explicó la Reverenda Canóniga Susan Brown Snook, Presidente tanto del Comité Episcopal de Becas para la Evangelización como del Comité del Consejo Ejecutivo de Misión y Ministerio Local.

El programa de Becas Episcopales para la Evangelización es coordinado por el Comité Local de Misión y Ministerio en colaboración con el Equipo de Iniciativas de Evangelismo de la Iglesia Episcopal.

“La evangelización no es una práctica atemorizante que sólo practican los ‘otros’ cristianos”, dijo la reverenda canóniga Stephanie Spellers, canóniga del Obispo Presidente para el Evangelismo, la Reconciliación y el Cuidado de la Creación y miembro del comité de becas. “El evangelismo es el corazón de la vida cristiana, y esperamos que este programa prenda la llama y conecte a los episcopales que están creando formas únicas, auténticamente episcopales de buscar, nombrar y celebrar la presencia amorosa de Jesús en todas partes”.

El Comité buscará propuestas enfocadas en varios objetivos
• Crear y difundir recursos que equipen a los episcopales y las iglesias para convertirse en evangelistas y narradores de historias en la vida diaria.
• Crear oportunidades para las personas que no forman parte de una comunidad de fe para que construyan sus propias relaciones amorosas, liberadoras y dadoras de vida con Dios en Cristo.
• Apuntar a un impacto duradero y amplio.
• Emplear innovación y creatividad.
• Promover el aprendizaje, la comprensión y la aplicación práctica en toda la iglesia.

Las instituciones episcopales (parroquias, diócesis, provincias, escuelas, seminarios, comunidades monásticas, organizaciones episcopales y otras entidades episcopales afiliadas) son elegibles para recibir estos fondos. Las asociaciones colaborativas regionales con entidades no episcopales son bienvenidas y alentadas, pero una entidad episcopal debe servir como líder del proyecto, ser gerente activo y agente informante. Aquellos asociados con un seminario o programa de formación son alentados a explorar la posibilidad de conseguir fondos a través de la Sociedad de Evangelismo Episcopal en www.ees1862.org.

Hay becas disponibles de hasta 2.000 dólares para una congregación individual y de hasta 8.000 dólares para las colaboraciones entre varias iglesias, diócesis y regionales. También se espera que los grupos que reciben financiamiento realicen una contribución financiera significativa para el proyecto.

El Comité de Becas revisará las propuestas y hará recomendaciones al Consejo Ejecutivo en la reunión de enero de 2018. La distribución se realizará dentro de las cuatro semanas posteriores a la notificación y la finalización de los formularios necesarios.

La aplicación, los criterios y la información adicional están disponibles aquí.

La fecha límite para presentar solicitudes es el 15 de diciembre a las 8:00 de la noche hora del este [de Estados Unidos].

Para obtener más información, póngase en contacto con Kayla Massey en kmassey@episcopalchurch.org o 212.716.6022.

Anglican commission begins work to develop global safeguarding procedures

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 2:11pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An international commission established to make the Churches of the Anglican Communion safe places for children, young people and vulnerable adults has begun its work. The Anglican Communion’s Safe Church Commission was established by the Anglican Consultative Council at its meeting last year in Lusaka, in one of four resolutions on safeguarding.

Read the entire article here.

Call for protected freedom of speech after Australians vote ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 2:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Australia’s Parliament has begun the process of legalizing same-sex marriage after a resounding “yes” to the proposal in a plebiscite. Just under 80 percent of eligible voters participated in the voluntary postal vote, with 61.6 percent voting in favor. Within hours of the result being declared, legislators began the process of considering a private members bill tabled by Sen. Dean Smith. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he wants the bill to become law by Christmas.

Read the entire article here.

Between a crisis and a ‘kairos’: Zimbabwean church leaders call for national dialogue

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 2:03pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An ecumenical group of Christian leaders in Zimbabwe have said that the country is “between a crisis and a kairos” (opportunity) and have called for a national dialogue. The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations, chaired by the Anglican bishop of Central Zimbabwe, Ishmael Mukuwanda, brings together the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe. In a statement released to ACNS Nov. 15, the group says that many Zimbabweans are “confused and anxious about what has transpired and continues to unfold in our nation.”

Read the entire article here.

Religious, community and school leaders train to tackle Burundi’s biggest killer

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 11:55am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Four-hundred people representing the faith, community and education sectors in Burundi have been trained to combat malaria, the main cause of death in the country. So far in 2017, more than six million cases of malaria have been registered; and more than 2,600 people have died. The training took place in Bururi and Mwaro districts – two of the four worst-hit areas of the country.

Read the entire article here.

Editors’ note: Episcopal Relief & Development partners with the Anglican Church of Burundi on other health-integrated programs, dealing with issues such as HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence.

Nashotah House announces passing of the Rev. Rick Hartley

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 8:57am

[Nashotah House Theological Seminary — Nashotah, Wisconsin] It is with great sadness that Nashotah House Theological Seminary announces the unexpected passing of the Rev. Richard (Rick) S. Hartley, associate dean for student services, affiliate professor of ascetical and pastoral theology and a Nashotah House alumnus.

The Rev. Richard (Rick) S. Hartley

Hartley began his ministry in his early twenties after serving five years with an itinerant drama ministry. He devoted time to continuing his education during his entire 20 years of ministry. He received his Master of Sacred Theology, Ascetical Theology, from Nashotah House in 2015 and his Doctorate of Ministry with an emphasis in leadership and spiritual formation in 2009. In addition, he had studied and earned degrees at several other schools, including St Paul Theological College, Sanctus Theological Institute and Andersonville (Baptist) Theological Seminary. Originally ordained a Baptist, he was approbated into the Congregational Way in 2006, but finally came home to Anglicanism in 2013. Hartley was a priest in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

He had published articles in the International Congregational Journal and served on the Theological Commission of the International Congregational Fellowship, giving lectures in the United States, Bulgaria and England. He also developed a lay school for ministry during his time with the Congregationalists. Hartley leaves behind his wife, Karla, and three children.

Services will be held on Nov. 18, at the First Congregational Church in Mukwonago, with visitation from 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., followed by the funeral service at 1 p.m.

Founded in 1842, Nashotah House is a seminary serving the Episcopal Church, Anglican Communion and other ecumenical partners.

Jamaica and Cayman Islands launch season of intentional discipleship

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 2:49pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, in the province of the West Indies, have launched a season of intentional discipleship, following the call of last year’s Anglican Consultative Council. About 1,500 clergy and laity gathered at the Church Teachers’ College in Mandeville, Jamaica, Nov. 12, to hear Bishop Howard Gregory explain the importance of discipleship.

Get the entire article here.

Church of England publishes guidance for schools on homophobic, bi-phobic, transphobic bullying

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 2:46pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England has today published revised guidance to help its 4,700 schools tackle homophobic, bi-phobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying. The Church said that the guidance will help prevent children in its schools “having their self-worth diminished or their ability to achieve impeded by being bullied because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.” It is an updated version of 2014 guidance, Valuing All God’s Children, which tackled homophobic behavior. The update covers a wider range of negative behaviors, and incorporates the relevant legal and inspection frameworks and reflects the Church’s vision for education, whose four elements of wisdom, hope, community and dignity form the theological basis of the guidance.

Get the entire article here.

Input, comments invited for Episcopal Church 2019-2021 triennium preliminary draft budget

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 2:30pm

[The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Episcopalians across the church are invited to review and provide input and comments on the preliminary draft of the 2019-2021 triennium budget.

“In the current and prior triennia, the budgets were built to reflect the Five Marks of Mission,” Tess Judge, Executive Council member and chair of Finance for Mission Committee, stated in the overview letter.  “The 2019-2021 budget is based on The Jesus Movement with Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation & Justice, and Environmental Stewardship as priorities.”

Judge added, “One of the advantages of The Jesus Movement budget is that it reflects how the staff is organized, by department, rather than spread across Five Marks and other areas as in the past. So lines of communication, reporting, collaboration, and budget creation are clearer.  In the changeover to The Jesus Movement, some sections of the budget were moved, so that it may be hard to make direct comparisons between costs in areas in prior budgets to projected costs in the coming triennium. And comparing percentages can be inaccurate.”

Following comments and suggestions, the preliminary draft budget will be prepared for approval by the Episcopal Church Executive Council at its January 2018 meeting. From there, Executive Council will present the draft budget to Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance (PB&F) in February, which will then prepare a final budget for approval at General Convention next summer.

• The preliminary draft budget is available here. 
• Input and comments can be submitted here.
• Deadline for providing comments is January 10, 2018.

Highlights
A narrative located here provides overview information about the preliminary draft budget document.

Here are a few highlights:
• The first two pages summarize projected income, $128,429,734, and projected expenses, $132,921,145, resulting in a deficit of $4,491,411.

Among the highlights on the Income page (1):
• Line 2 – Diocesan Commitments (Assessments required beginning January 1, 2019) In the current triennium commitments asked dropped from 18 to 15 percent with a $150,000 exemption for each diocese. The Line 2 2016-2018 figure is the expected actual commitment (not an assumed full commitment). The 2019-2021 budget shows a gross number, the full 15 percent with $140,000 exemption projected assessment from all dioceses. The red box below is an allowance for those dioceses which might be granted waivers from paying the full amount by Executive Council in the Assessment Review process.

• Line 3 – Income from Unrestricted Assets & Outside Trusts – these two lines represent a 5 percent draw from investments.

• Line 3 – Annual Appeal Campaign – $500,000 from the Development Department’s new Annual Fund solicitation to fund ministries in the operating budget.  Of this $88,000, will cover the costs of annual campaigns.

• Line 4b – Racial Reconciliation – $2 million dollars was set aside from short term reserves in the current triennium.  Since this was a brand new program, it took over a year to get up to speed, so the full $2 million will not be spent.  The 2019-2021 budget carries over $1 million for this work.

Among the highlights in the Expenses page (2):
• The Expense Categories for the 2019-2021 budget include:  Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation & Justice, Creation Care, Ministry of the Presiding Bishop to Church and World, Mission Within the Episcopal Church, Mission Beyond the Episcopal Church, Mission Governance, and Mission Finance, Legal & Operations.   They do not perfectly correspond with the Five Marks budget categories.

• Staff – all staff lines include a 3 percent raise each year and estimate 9 percent increases in health insurance costs.  The Presiding Bishop has expressed his satisfaction with the staff in place and asks that there be no new hires in the 2019-2021 budget.

• House of Deputies, Line 298 – Staff Costs include $900,000 for salary and benefits for the President of the House of Deputies to be sure funds are available should the salary be voted by General Convention.

General Convention
The Episcopal Church 79th General Convention will be held Thursday, July 5 to Friday, July 13, 2018 at The Austin Convention Center, Austin, Texas (Diocese of Texas).

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years to consider the legislative business of the church.  General Convention is the bicameral governing body of the Church, comprised of the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 109 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members. Between Conventions, the General Convention continues to work through its committees and commissions.  The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church carries out the programs and policies adopted by General Convention.

Diocese of Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith announces retirement

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 1:00pm

[Episcopal Diocese of Arizona] The Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith, fifth bishop of the Diocese of Arizona, has announced his retirement.

In a letter sent to all clergy and congregations in the diocese, Bishop Smith said the announcement was with “mixed emotions.” He explained, “By the time I retire I will be almost 68 years old. It is time for the diocese to move on to a new mission with younger leadership. It is also time for me to enjoy some new adventures before I get too old to do so!”

Bishop Smith does not plan to sit idly in retirement. His first journey will be a one-semester visiting professorship at General Theological Seminary in New York for the fall of 2019.

The transition process will take approximately 18 months before a new bishop is consecrated. The Standing Committee and a Search Committee, designated by the diocesan Constitution and Canons (body of laws and regulations), will lead the process. At the Diocesan Convention on October 19-20, 2018, an election will be held to choose Bishop Smith’s successor, with the next bishop being consecrated as the Sixth Bishop of Arizona on March 9, 2019.

Bishop Smith promised that he would not be “a lame duck” because there is still much work to do, which will include “a time of sharing memories and celebrating our work together.”

Peace-building project launched to reduce tensions between Kipsigis and Maasai in Kenya

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 11:44am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of Kenya responded to recurring violence between Kipsigis and Maasai people in the Trans Mara district by launching a peace-building project to bring the two sides together. In July, the province’s social ministry arm, Anglican Development Services (ADS-Kenya), invited representatives of national and county governments to share ideas on the root causes of the violence among the two communities, and to discuss how to engage in sustainable peace-building.

Read the entire article here.

Anglican Alliance releases resources for observing Freedom Sunday in December

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 11:32am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches throughout the Anglican Communion are expected to observe Freedom Sunday on or near Dec. 2 as part of increased efforts to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery. The Anglican Alliance has produced a resource pack, in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese, to help churches plan services and other events around Freedom Sunday, which this year falls on the UN’s International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. The resource pack includes stories, information, prayers and a sermon outline.

Read the full article here.

Episcopalians bring faith perspectives to Congress on both sides of political aisle

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 5:00pm

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations counts 40 Episcopal members of the current Congress. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] One is the great-great-grandson of an Episcopal bishop. One grew up across the street from Virginia Theological Seminary. One made his first visit to the nation’s capital as a young chorister singing at Washington National Cathedral.

They all have at least one thing in common, in addition to their Episcopal faith: They now are among the 535 citizens serving as senators and representatives in Congress.

The United States has a long history of political leaders from the Anglican tradition, starting with President George Washington and many members of first Congress in 1789. The Episcopal Church’s prominence on Capitol Hill has been eclipsed by other denominations as the country has diversified over more than two centuries, though dozens of members of Congress still identify as Episcopalians or Anglicans.

“Being raised in the Episcopal Church, which is such an outwardly looking, active-faith community … we tend to be called to try and make a difference,” Rep. Andy Barr, R-Kentucky, told Episcopal News Service in an interview at his Capitol Hill office. “And there’s no other reason to run for public office than to want to make a difference.”

ENS interviewed several Episcopalians who serve in Congress to report on the range of ways faith influences lawmakers’ public service. For some, that faith is expressed openly at weekly prayer breakfasts and occasionally in policy speeches. Such public expressions of faith, though, often are tempered by the lawmakers’ awareness of the United States’ constitutional protections regarding religious freedom.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, speaks during an interview at his Capitol Hill office. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“How do you apply your faith in your political life without imposing your faith on other people? That’s a challenge. That’s a dilemma,” Sen. Angus King of Maine said while speaking with ENS in his office. “My faith is important to me. I use it as a guide in my decision making, but I don’t feel it is appropriate for me to tell other people what their beliefs should be. And that’s a constant tension.”

The Episcopal Church also has a presence in Washington through its Office of Government Relations, which monitors legislation, coordinates with partner agencies and denominations, develops relationships with lawmakers and encourages Episcopalians’ activism through its Episcopal Public Policy Network.

That work focuses on areas the church has identified as “being an integral part of Christian calling and witness,” Office of Government Relations Director Rebecca Blachly said in an emailed statement.

“Given the impact of the federal government on issues such as homelessness, poverty, healthcare, as well as in the international context and for our Anglican Communion partners, we undertake important public witness for the most vulnerable,” Blachly said.

King is a longtime independent who caucuses with Democrats in Congress. When talking faith on Capitol Hill, he believes in humility.

“There always has to be a little shred of doubt in your faith,” King said, adding it is no accident that the Nicene Creed begins with the words “we believe” rather than “we know.”

He spent his childhood in Alexandria, Virginia and lived for several years in the shadow of Virginia Theological Seminary. His mother was a lay leader in the Diocese of Virginia. His father served on the vestry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. As an adult, his law and business career took him to Maine, where he was first elected governor in 1994. He held that office for eight years and was elected U.S. senator in 2012.

He now regularly attends St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick, Maine, and once described himself to Maine Magazine as “the guy who sits in the back.”

“I don’t know how I got into that habit,” King told ENS. He cautioned against reading into that habit any spiritual significance.

If you were to categorize the church-going persona of Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, it might be The Guy Who Wears a Coat and Tie.

Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, spoke with ENS at the Capitol after speaking on the floor of the House. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

He typically attends Sunday worship at St. James Episcopal Church when he is home in Fairhope, Alabama, and when he is in Washington on a Sunday morning you’re likely to find him at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square across from the White House. But in January, on the Sunday after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, he chose a smaller church by the Capitol because he thought it wouldn’t be as crowded.

“I went to this church in a coat and tie, and I got there and I looked around – I was the only person there with a coat and tie,” Byrne said in an interview at the Capitol. “This one gentleman came over across the room and sat right next to me, and he said, ‘Everybody’s trying to figure out who you are.’

“And when I told him, they couldn’t have been nicer. … I’ve sort of found that the good thing about being in the Episcopal Church, I can kind of light in any Episcopal Church, some are conservative, some are liberal, some are high church, some are low church, and you kind of get that same warm, welcoming feeling.”

Episcopalians, a diverse delegation

The Episcopalians in Congress defy any uniform categorization. They’re just as likely to be Republican as Democrat, and they come from all corners of the country. Texas’ 5th District is represented by an Episcopalian, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Republican. In Oregon’s 5th District, Rep. Kurt Schrader is an Episcopalian and a Democrat.

Most of these senators and representatives are white men, though there also are several women, including a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat representing Florida’s 24th district. Some Episcopalians, like King, Barr and Byrne, have only been in Congress a few years. Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat and an Episcopalian, has represented her Rochester-area district since 1981.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations counts 40 Episcopal members of the current Congress. Roman Catholics represent the largest group of lawmakers, with 168, followed by Baptists at 72, according to Pew Research Center analysis.

Faith on the Hill: The religious composition of the 115th Congress https://t.co/VMpuNwGcL3 pic.twitter.com/LrSK9KO6kk

— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) January 8, 2017

Lawmakers may take their oath with a hand on the Bible, but they are sworn to uphold the Constitution. Each senator and representative brings a personal perspective on how – or whether – faith beliefs should influence public policy.

Byrne said he feels guided by “the sort of Anglican approach to understanding truth and what’s right and what’s wrong” – the “three-legged stool” of scripture, church traditions and individual reason or discernment.

“I’ve found that’s served me well thought my life, before coming to Congress and in Congress,” Byrne said. “Scripture, tradition and reason are a big part of the way I approach things because that’s how I was brought up.”

Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Washington, also credited her faith and the Episcopal Church with shaping her commitment to community service, “whether it was when I was a vestry member, a PTA mom, a Stephen Minister or serving in Congress.”

DelBene wasn’t available for a Capitol Hill interview but said in an emailed statement for this story that her public life is partly rooted in faith principles.

“I’ve always fought for those who need a helping hand because our communities are stronger when no one is left behind,” DelBene said. “Those driving principles continue to serve me in my current role in Congress and I’ll keep looking for ways to work across the aisle to ensure everyone can succeed.”

Barr credits his faith with introducing him to Washington, D.C., about 30 years ago. He was in sixth grade when he performed at National Cathedral with the choir from his church.

That experience played only an indirect role in calling him to public service, but Barr feels directly influenced by his “thinking church,” which he says encourages an open mind.

“It’s a church that teaches the love and compassion and grace of Christ, but it’s also a church that is willing to take on the difficult task of discerning scripture and thinking through it,” he said. “That allows for people of a lot of different perspectives to be welcome in the Episcopal Church.”

That wide spectrum includes some lawmakers who downplay the active role of faith in political life.

“It’s not something that I affirmatively think about,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, said in an interview with ENS in his office. He sees faith as part of his DNA rather than something to wear on his sleeve. “It’s not like, what should my faith principles say about this? It’s much more embedded than that.”

Limits on religion in politics

Whitehouse, whose ancestor, the Rt. Rev. Henry John Whitehouse, was a bishop of the Diocese of Illinois in the 19th century, attended Episcopal church services growing up and went to St. Paul’s School, an Episcopal college prep school in Concord, New Hampshire. He is still an Episcopalian but now prefers worshipping at Central Congregational Church in Providence, Rhode Island, when back in his district.

He also is wary of politicians injecting faith into the work of government, and that was part of his message in 2014 when he spoke at a lobby day event held by the Secular Coalition of America, an atheist group.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, met with ENS in his Capitol Hill office. Photo: Episcopal News Service

“People of faith can recognize and respect the views of people who do not have faith,” Whitehouse told ENS. “They are as welcome and important a part of the American experiment as people who hold divergent faiths. … They, too, are all God’s children.”

Whitehouse sees “a natural corrective” to religious overreach in Congress, because legislation that crosses that line will face a tougher time garnering enough support for passage. There are fewer checks on federal judges once they are seated, Whitehouse said. As a member of the Senate Judicial Committee, he thinks it is fair to ask court nominees about their faith to ensure it won’t eclipse the law in deciding cases.

The issue came up this fall in questioning of Trevor McFadden, a Trump nominee to a federal district court post. McFadden is a member of an Anglican congregation in Falls Church, Virginia, that formed after members of the Falls Church left congregation during a theological dispute, including over Whitehouse riled some conservative critics by asking McFadden whether he, despite his church’s beliefs, would uphold the Supreme Court’s decision allowing same-sex marriage. McFadden responded he would.

“He answered well, and I voted for him,” Whitehouse told ENS.

Byrne has sought to defend religious freedoms, too, but from the opposite side of the gay marriage issue. He was a co-sponsor of a bill in 2015 called the First Amendment Defense Act that would bar “discriminatory action” against people, such as business owners, who follow religious convictions that gay marriage is wrong. The bill never made it out of committee.

“For us to tell somebody you can’t act out your faith in the way you conduct your business, I think that’s antithetical to the First Amendment,” Byrne said.

Such a stance may be in line with many of Byrne’s constituents, though it puts him at odds with the Episcopal Church, which just last month spoke out on the side of a gay couple who were denied a wedding cake by a Colorado cake shop. That legal case is now before the Supreme Court.

The Episcopal Church regularly takes values-based public stances on public issues, including through the Office of Government Relations’ advocacy in Washington.

“All of our advocacy is based on General Convention resolutions and thus reflects the will of the Church,” Blachly said, while stressing that her office takes a nonpartisan approach.

“We know that Episcopalians in the pews also have a diversity of political opinions, and we realize it is possible to have different views on the best way to achieve a more just and compassionate world,” she said. “Bipartisanship, as well as respectful listening and dialogue, is central to all of our engagement as we build relationships with members of Congress, the administration and federal departments and agencies.”

Sometimes Episcopalians in Congress are closely aligned with their church on certain issues, as Whitehouse is on climate change. That and ocean quality are important in his coastal state, while the Episcopal Church has promoted environmental stewardship for decades. The House of Bishops also made environmental justice one of the themes of its September meeting in Alaska.

“God has made nature pretty resilient if she’s only given a chance and the oceans are perhaps the most spectacularly resilient of all,” he said. “But they’ve got to be given that chance.”

Differing on issues, united by faith

On some issues, however, the church may find itself in the middle of a partisan divide. The Trump administration’s pursuit of greater restrictions on refugee resettlement sparked opposition this year from the Episcopal Church, whose Episcopal Migration Ministries is one of nine organizations that facilitate that resettlement on behalf of the State Department.

A policy alert issued in October by the Office of Government Relations warned of “devastating consequences for refugees” who are barred from entering the United States.

Republicans have generally been more supportive of the president’s refugee policies. Both Byrne and Barr spoke in favor of the refugee resettlement program while citing national security as a legitimate reason to tighten the process, at least temporarily.

Rep. Andy Barr, R-Kentucky, speaks about his faith as an Episcopalian in his office in Washington. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Such a policy position doesn’t necessarily contradict the church, Barr said.

“We may come at the issue of refugees or immigrants differently and we may have some disagreements,” Barr said, “but I think all of us in Congress who are Episcopalians, we believe that this country is a nation of immigrants. … We believe in the duty and the obligation of our country to offer refuge and asylum to the politically and religiously oppressed.”

Faith also can provide common ground, a bridge across the partisan divide. King regularly attends the Senate’s weekly interfaith prayer breakfast, “the only bipartisan event around here.” Only senators are invited, and 20 or more typically attend any given Wednesday morning in a room at the Capitol.

“It’s my favorite hour of the week,” King said. The event is a chance to get to know his fellow senators, Republicans and Democrats, as real people rather than political opponents, and he frequently learns something new about them.

Byrne, too, sees faith as “a force for unity” and often attends House prayer group meetings that draw members of both parties.

His religion became an issue in the 2016 election, when a Republican rival who is Baptist tried to argue Byrne, as an Episcopalian, wasn’t conservative enough for his Alabama district. That line of attack didn’t gain much traction, Byrne said.

“I’m not going to back down from the fact I came to Christ through the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church continues to feed me day to day, week to week, month to month,” he told ENS. “And the other people of faith in my district, particularly those that know me, respect me for that.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Bishop Carl Wright offers a Veterans Day meditation

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 4:32pm

I greet you in the Name of the Lord Jesus on this the 98th commemoration of “Veterans Day.” It used to be called “Armistice Day” in thanksgiving for the peace that was signed between the Allied and Axis powers. When President Woodrow Wilson made the second Armistice Day (11 November 1919) an official celebration, we were an optimistic people. The horribly tragic “War to End All Wars” had ended the previous year. Things were looking up. Americans had every right to expect that no civilized person would ever want to go to war again. Then, barely 20 years later, a deranged German army corporal, a veteran of that same war, set out to conquer the world and brought us into WWII. And so went the 20th century, arguably the most violent century ever.

Undoubtedly, those wars (and all subsequent ones) made us wonder what in the world can we trust. We were so hopeful that goodness and truth would come out of violence and evil; and it did not happen. Moreover, we are even now living through precarious and dangerous times – more dangerous than we have known for several generations – dangerous morally, socially, politically, etc. Upon reflection, our time bears a close resemblance to the inter-war years (1918-1938). We, too “have been through a great tribulation” (Revelation 7): ours was called the Vietnam conflict. Our whole society changed during and after the 1960s. Previous customs, values, and beliefs were all questioned or abandoned altogether.

These are times like those. Consensus has broken down. Fear is all around. There is an unspoken undercurrent of anxiety and uncertainty. We don’t know what the future holds.

But I ask you to join me in trusting in the true and living God, just as Job did, when he said, in the midst of great confusion, “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19). Let us be hopeful that the good will always eventually win out. Our veterans deserve our respect because they are the guarantors of the freedoms we enjoy. Our veterans do the bidding of politicians and diplomats, who we pray have our best interests in mind. Veterans fight to preserve our constitutional rights. Veterans die so we can live. So, on this 98th commemoration of Veterans Day, let us give thanks to God for their service keep them in our prayers.

— The Rt. Rev. Carl Walter Wright is the bishop suffragan for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries.

Diocese of Los Angeles announces plan for resuming use of disputed church property

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 2:34pm

Members of St. James the Great Episcopal Church have not worshipped in the Newport Beach, California, building since mid-summer 2015. Photo: St. James the Great Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles released a statement Nov. 9 outlining a plan for future use of a disputed church property in Newport Beach, California, including the eventual resumption of worship services there by the St. James the Great congregation.

The property has been at the heart of disciplinary proceedings this year against Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno for his attempts to sell the church, and members of St. James the Great have been forced to worship in a Civic Center community room while the property remains in dispute.

The disciplinary hearing panel found Bruno guilty of the St. James complainants’ allegations and said he should be suspended from ordained ministry for three years because of misconduct. Bruno has appealed the hearing panel’s ruling.

Los Angeles Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor and the Rev. Rachel Anne Nyback, president of the diocese’s Standing Committee, said in October that the diocese would help St. James the Great regain mission status, but such efforts did not include the immediate return of the congregation’s pastor, the Rev. Cindy Evans Voorhees.

The statement released Nov. 9, signed by Taylor, Nyback and Voorhees, said that after St. James the Great regains mission status, it will be invited to resume use of the church, and Taylor will name Voorhees vicar. The diocese also plans to use part of the facility for its Redeemer Center for Diocesan Ministries.

The full text of the statement is below, and an additional message from Taylor can be found here.

Making All Things New: St. James the Great Episcopal Church and the Redeemer Center for Diocesan Ministries

Key principles:

—  The church’s sudden closing hurt the people of St. James. Their leaders countenanced hurtful statements and tactics. This cycle of hurt strained relationships in the diocese. We will end the cycle by sharing our narratives openly and honestly, using reconciliation in relationship to rediscover our unity and purpose as a diocesan family in Christ.

— The diocese will continue to engage in discernment about mission and ministry in south Orange County. The diocese has no plans to sell the church. The diocese reserves the right to make whatever decisions about its resources that it may think best for the glory of God and in service of God’s people.

— While this reconciliation and discernment work goes on, the people of St. James should be able to worship in the church and experience renewal and inspiration from the celebration of Holy Eucharist and service to God’s people in community. St. James pledges to participate fully in the work of diocesan reconciliation and discernment and abide by their outcomes.

Next steps:

— The diocese will use a portion of the facility as the Redeemer Center for Diocesan Ministries. Tenancy will be at the bishop’s discretion. The bishop will oversee its work, and those leading its justice, outreach, service, or spirituality ministries will report to the bishop.

— Once St. James has been granted mission status, it will be invited to resume use of the church. Once Bishop Taylor, by the grace of God, is diocesan bishop, he intends to name Canon Voorhees as vicar. All understand that vicars and bishop’s wardens serve at the discretion of their bishops and that bishops, as rectors of mission churches, oversee all their operations, mission, and ministry. Once formed and seated, the St. James Bishop’s Committee and wardens will enter into a standard letter of agreement with the vicar, requiring the signature of the bishop.

Until this preparatory work is complete, the diocese may reopen the church for weekly celebrations of Holy Eucharist by supply clergy. Bishop Taylor and Canon Voorhees will be among those on the rota.

The diocese and St. James will diligently observe all canonical and diocesan requirements and procedures governing mission churches. St. James understands that the proposed 2018 Mission Share Fund budget for mission churches is fully obligated for the sake of communities where the need is great. The diocese will do all it can to assist St. James in restarting.

— St. James will stop using communications strategists and social media to advocate in connection with its relationship to the diocese. The diocese and St. James hereby repudiate all past and future anonymous correspondence sent on their behalves. If those responsible for Save St. James The Great wish it to persist as a non-profit organization, they will change its name and devote it to a religious or charitable purpose.

Signed:

The Rev. Dr. Rachel Anne Nyback [for the Standing Committee]

The Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor

The Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees

 

Archbishop of Canterbury joins pope in calling for ‘Status Quo’ in Jerusalem

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 1:27pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has echoed Pope Francis’ call for the “Status Quo” agreement over religious sites in Jerusalem to be protected. After meeting the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, at Lambeth Palace last week, Justin said: “I join other church leaders in calling for all parties to uphold the Status Quo and resist weakening it. I believe that a continued Christian presence in the Holy Land is of paramount importance.”

Read the entire article here.

Compass Rose Society launches $10 million Anglican Communion endowment

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 1:19pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Compass Rose Society was founded in 1997 by a global group of Anglicans to support the work of the Anglican Communion. In two decades, the Society’s 400-plus members have donated more than $10 million to support the work of the Anglican Consultative Council and the international ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The society is now looking to cement its support for the future by creating a $10 million endowment.

Read the full article here.

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